Archive for February, 2011


A Poppy Plant Diesel Engine?

February 2011


A recent article in the Atlantic Monthly described two former Army veterans who devised a novel idea to defeat the insurgency: turning poppy plants into fuel. Article can be accessed here:

This idea could revolutionize the Afghan economy.

According to the article, shipping one gallon of gasoline to a forward operating post in Afghanistan costs up to $400. Plus, every supply convoy we sent out is one more supply convoy that the Taliban could possibly attack. Recently the Taliban have targeted convoys in Pakistan, causing U.S. officials to route supplies through Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Meanwhile, buying local bio-diesel costs $10 per gallon and supports the local population.

Using poppy plants as fuel is a much better strategy than trying to destroy every poppy plant. Eradicating poppy plants only hurts the overall war effort. When Afghan farmers watch U.S. aircraft spray and destroy their crops, we aren’t exactly winning over “hearts and minds.” Afghan farmers grow poppy, not to under-mind U.S. strategy, but rather because poppy is the regional cash crop. While local farmers could grow wheat and grapes, these plants perish much quicker than poppy plants perish. Given the uncertainties of a war-torn country, having extra time to get your crop to market could be the difference between feeding your family and going hungry.

Furthermore, the U.S. eradicating poppy fields incentivizes other Afghans to grow poppy plants. This may seem counter-intuitive, but every poppy plant we destroy increases the price of poppy. The higher price for poppy will cause more farmers to switch to growing poppy plants.

However, implementing this plan will anger local drug lords and cause massive regulation problems. Just because some poppy plants are being used as biofuels doesn’t mean the drug market has evaporated. The U.S. will have a tough time regulating this poppy seed-biodiesel market. Even so, part of winning this war is restoring the Afghan economy- might as well work with what you’ve already got.

Posted by jjames in Army, Foreign Policy | 2 Comments

I really like being an Enlisted blogger. The reason why is best summed up by a conversation I had a few weeks back with a Colonel with whom I work. To set the stage a little, you need to know that he was in a suit and tie at the time of the meeting, as he just back from a function that required such attire. Just the same, this Col. also has a doctorate.

Col: Those were some good points you made in the meeting.

Me: Thanks Sir.

Col: Have you ever considered becoming an Officer?

Me: Well, the thing about being Enlisted, is that when I make a half way decent point, it sounds twice as good; no one expects it.

Col: Heh, yeah.

But, just the same there is another side to being an Enlisted blogger. I can’t really be an advocate for much. The number of toes I can end up stepping on if I say too much, or if I am assumed to be speaking in an official capacity when I’m not. Or, even if anyone starts to think that I am speaking way too far out of my league is a rather easy thing to do, at least I assume it to be. I hope to never truly test that assumption out (without very good reason).

In this forum, I am more free to maneuver than anywhere else. Granted, I speak incessantly on Facebook on all kinds of matters. But, that is entertainment to me, my real intent there is not to ensure the best case for my Navy. But, here at this blog – in this forum – it is. I need that freedom of navigation because only I know the waters in which I sail. In this, I mean that I am incredibly discreet regarding the job I do today. I don’t do a secret squirrel job, nor do I even have a Classified computer on my desk. I just like keeping my duties here (and I do consider it a duty to post here) and at SHAPE separate.

A Man’s judgement is best when he can forget himself and any reputation he may have acquired and can concentrate wholly on making the right decision.

Admiral Raymond Spruance

Having just finished the biography of Admiral Spruance, I thought it fitting to include that here – note that I hold an organization in the same sentiment as given by the Admiral.

A forum (system) should always be transparent. In a properly constructed system, the agents of that system exert an influence that makes the system greater than the sum of its parts. It should seem that the agents (individuals) who make up the system is all that exists. In the case of this forum and every forum of USNI, all that should seem to exist are the words and the discourse of the individual agents. Which is why I am troubled by the following:

An independent forum advocating…

The forum should advocate nothing, rather it must be the individual agents of that forum that advocate anything on their own volition – the system inherits its independence from the agents, it doesn’t imbue its agents with that independence.

Now, if the forum is, in fact, advocating anything, how does that then reflect on the individual agents? How could that then reflect on the duty station of the agent? Must I assume an agenda in posting here, in being a member (not a life member yet, but I’ve always renewed since 2008…)?

Keep me and all future Enlisted writers independent and free to maneuver. Be an advocate for us in as much as you will lend us your ear and then help us learn the art of writing and discourse. You need not advocate any more than that to help ensure the future of my Navy and our Nation.

Frank Buckles, the last surviving American veteran of the First World War, has died just weeks after his 110th birthday. Born 1 February 1901, Buckles had lied about his age to join the Ambulance Corps, where he served on the Western Front. He was one of nearly 5 million Americans who would serve in that war, a war in which 118,000 US servicemen would be killed in action in a little over seven months of combat.

Between the wars, Buckles found himself in the Philippines, where, in 1941, he was captured as a civilian by the Japanese. He spent three years as a prisoner of the Japanese before being freed. Read the rest of the story here.

And so America’s participation in the Great War, the unprecedented slaughter which perhaps more than any event still shapes Western consciousness, passes from the vivid color of eyewitness recollections of her veterans, into the sepia-toned images that populate the pages of history.

God rest the soul of Frank Buckles. His comrades await his presence no longer.

Ship using Fire Hose Defense

Sunday at 5pm (U.S. Eastern) on Midrats we’re going to be talking piracy Episode 60 Defense Against Piracy Tactical Operational 2/27/2011 – Midrats:

Join Navy milbloggers Sal from “CDR Salamander” and EagleOne from “Eagle Speak” as they discuss the tactical and operational steps mariners can take to defend themselves and their ships from pirates – and if their ship is taken – what they can do to best enable coalition forces to re-take the ship. Our guest will Kevin Doherty, former Marine and owner of Nexus Consulting Group of Alexandria.

For all Members of the Naval Institute,

In the 2011 annual ballot the Board of Directors has recommended an historic change to the Mission of the Naval Institute to “advocating the necessity of global seapower.” The Board believes that the United States must support and maintain a strong, global naval capability and that a proper role for the Institute is to be a proactive advocate for that goal.

This is an important initiative from our Board of Directors; one that deserves your full attention as a member.

The full ballot will appear in the March Proceedings, and is now online here , together with a more comprehensive justification for the new Mission Statement.

In keeping faith with the 137 year tradition of our professional association as the “Independent Forum of the Sea Services” I encourage members to engage on this important initiative.

Share your views, and cast your ballot NLT April 11, 2011.

Major General Thomas L. Wilkerson, USMC (Ret.)

Chief Executive Officer

U. S. Naval Institute

Posted by admin in Naval Institute | 36 Comments

The Navy has a great opportunity coming up to tell its story, but it looks like we are about to miss an opportunity that only comes along once in a century. Before we get to the meat of it – let’s review some fundamentals.

There are few professions where an understanding of history is more important than the military. Though we debate its application and education here, I don’t think many argue this fundamental fact.

We also live in a Representative Republic where the military is funded based on the support and approval of its nation’s democratically elected Representatives. It is hoped that informed and educated voters result in informed and educated Representatives who will then make the best decisions on where the nation’s funds are spent.

Since the end of WWII, we have seen a steady retreat from large segments of this nation, so that even traditional maritime cities such at New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and regions such as New England and the entire San Francisco Bay area are now devoid of any significant Navy presence. In all the areas above – representing a significant part of our nation – besides small reserve units, the Naval War College, and a few submarines, they are effectively a Navy free zone….and those are in areas with a great Navy tradition in living memory. Add in to this great swaths of this nation that almost never see a Navy uniform …. and you have a challenge. The challenge of telling the Navy’s story.

Most people outside the Navy family do not fully grasp the role our Navy has in their nation’s history, and as a result cannot understand its need for the future. It isn’ t taught in schools, and if it isn’t in your family or your neighborhood – all you see is what Hollywood might feed you while channel surfing. We have to take advantage of every opportunity to tell our story – no one else is.

After Times Square in NYC and the Las Vegas Strip – Washington DC, specifically The Mall, is the most popular destination in the US. Let that soak in, we’ll come back to it.

One of the best ways to tell a story is to let people see it. Museums have stood the test of time, they serve as the foundation stone to telling your story. You have to do it right, or its impact will be lost to those who need it most. The Navy needs a great museum, not a good one, a great one. We don’t have that now.

The most important thing for a museum is location. You can always get more money later … but you can only pick a spot once. If you were going to pick a spot in Washington DC for a museum you would want two things – great visual exposure to attract visitors who may have not thought about going – the “Oooohhhh Daddy, look at that!” strategy; anyone in marketing can tell you the importance of that. The second is access. In DC if you can walk to it, you can get to it. That is where we are making our first mistake.

The Navy is recommending that the proposal for a waterfront Navy museum blocks from the National Mall be sidelined in favor of a location in the northwest corner of the Navy Yard — one that would be outside the complex’s secure perimeter, allowing easier public access.

The current National Museum of the U.S. Navy occupies 98,000 square feet in two buildings within the Navy Yard’s perimeter and has a relatively low number of visitors annually. A new museum would take up more than 200,000 square feet at either location.

There is no better place in DC to tell your story than within easy walking distance from The Mall. Waterfront & The Mall – and you have a winner.

You would be hard pressed to pick a less desirable place for a museum than the neighborhood around the Navy Yard in DC. It is isolated, unattractive, out of the main tourist areas. It is a loser.

What if the Navy had a chance to grab a spot right where 395 enters DC …. thousands to hundreds of thousands of eyeballs every day seeing the museum … a spot that is also a short walk from The Mall? Again, sounds like a winner, right?

Well, it seems not to the minds of those making decisions, decisions I would offer are myopic in the extreme. It also sounds like there are egos involved – egos that are leaning on a bit too much on one of the weaknesses of our profession; a desire for control and power.

Via our friends at NavyTimes,

A Naval Facilities Command brief being circulated among Navy leadership demonstrated a level of wariness on the Navy’s part to enter into an agreement with the National Maritime Heritage Foundation out of a concern for losing a degree of operational control of the facilities. The foundation submitted its proposal in September 2009.

The NAVFAC report, dated Dec. 1 and obtained by Navy Times, indicates the Navy would seek to “maximize Navy control over development and operational management of the museum.” The report lists the lack of operational control and ownership of the building as “risk factors” involved in accepting the NMHF proposal.

Navy history is bigger than any of the personalities involved. Who are they worried about influencing the museum? The Students for a Democratic Society? Ummmm, no.

A source with intimate knowledge of the proposal said the Navy was offered full operational control over the waterfront building. The source said the report was based on an initial proposal only and that the foundation had subsequently offered a 51 percent ownership stake in the building, with first right of refusal over any use of the property, adding that the NAVFAC report made “all the worst assumptions” about the NMHF proposal.

The foundation’s proposal was publicly supported by nine retired admirals, two former Navy secretaries — Gordon England and John Dalton — and prominent Washington politicians, including Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton and former Mayor Adrian Fenty.

In the business world, 51% IS control. Is cost an issue?

The report concluded that any museum would be an expensive endeavor; cost estimates for the NMHF proposal over 30 years ranged from $384 million to $504 million. The upfront cost to the Navy would be about $78 million.

The Marine Corps paid about $30 million upfront for its museum in Quantico, Va., and the service continues to have tight control over the exhibits and message they convey, a model sources say the Navy wants to follow.

The Navy Yard site, located in a building known as “The Yards” would cost about $428 million over 30 years.

No, cost isn’t a factor between the two. Estimates are a rounding error for the DTS program. The Army and USMC have solid track records for private-public partnerships … and in any event, pure government programs have an exceptionally poor track record for cost and timelines. You can almost smell it …..

The NAVFAC report is unclear on the funding for the Navy Yard location, but the 2015 timeline is based on “sole source approval.” A request for comment from NHHC on what the potential funding source would be or if there was a potential private partner for the Navy Yard location was not returned by press time.

A final mistake I think is a question of who the museum is for. Many in favor of the Navy Yard site. When they get past their control issues, seem to think that the primary audience for the museum is active duty military and their families. I’m sorry, no.

This museum should focus on the American public at large – the taxpayers who support it. A self-licking ice cream cone hidden away in a nasty corner of DC visited by a few who already know the Navy story is not worth the effort.

A crown jewel of a museum, close to The Mall, seen by everyone driving down 395 – with the potential to be a marque location for the millions who visit DC – that is something worthy of our Navy.

Fund raising? Wow. We really underestimate our supporters out there. The Navy League chapters throughout this nation along with the scrum of Navy active duty, reserve, retired, family, friends, and industry …. with the right leadership – this is doable. Even in a rough economy, very doable.

We have a great location with great partners wanting to do something great for our Navy and our nation. Why are we turning away? They seem to have made steps to address “control” issues (which BTW is a serious one given what happened in Canada and other mistakes that can be made WRT history). The money issue is a rounding error. Fund raising is very doable. What am I missing?

We have a chance here, we can have something on par with the 5-Star Air & Space Museum on one end, or the National Aquarium in the basement of the Commerce building on the other. Which do you want for your Navy?

What, you didn’t know we had a National Aquarium in DC? Exactly.

Surely, many of you are familiar with the news of four Americans who were captured when their vessel the S/V QUEST by pirates a couple days ago while sailing their yacht through pirate-infested waters. This morning their voyage ended.

In a statement, US Central Command said that negotiations were underway between the US Navy and the pirates, when the US forces heard gunfire coming from the Quest about 0600GMT.

They boarded the ship, killing two pirates in the process, and discovered the four Americans shot. The US Navy sailors attempted to provide first aid but the hostages died, the military said.

“As they responded to the gunfire, reaching and boarding the Quest, the forces discovered all four hostages had been shot by their captors,” Gen James Mattis of US Central Command Commander said in a statement.

“We express our deepest condolences for the innocent lives callously lost aboard the Quest,” the statement added.

The US Navy captured 13 pirates, and found the remains of two other pirates already dead about the vessel, the US military said. – BBC News

I have to say that I am surprised to hear this news, partly because you think that God might be watching over them given the bible mission that they were conducting. But relying on God to protect you as you plan to travel through pirate-infested waters is no plan at all. After-all the pirates pray to God too and are holding hundreds of seafarers hostage, not to mention a ship full of yachts whose owners were not interested in sailing through the area on their own. Their website makes no mention of the threat of pirates in their 2011 travel plans (page here). But given that pirates have been taking vessels as a revenue-generating scheme, and that live prisoners are worth lots more than dead ones, I just expected them to either end up ashore and hidden in Somalia or wait it out while the US Navy prevents them from taking them ashore.

I am not sure what the lessons are to be learned here that are not already known. But for the benefit of those still tempted to run the gauntlet, here is a reminder:

  • Yachts are extremely vulnerable
  • Even if the Navy comes to your rescue, it very well might be too late
  • The close quarters of a yacht keep you in close contact with pirates at all times, including during any attempt to retake the vessel
  • Pirates are very willing to kill their captives
  • If attacked, it is extremely important to keep the pirates from getting access to the crew

Piracy in the area is spreading and turning into a free-for-all for the pirates. The game is over for the 13 the Navy caught while retaking the vessel, but the pirates seem to be running the board at the moment.

So, what criminal charges do the 13 face back in the US and might the death penalty be on the table?


Here is confirmation that they knew what they were sailing into:

Friends of a US couple aboard a yacht hijacked off Somalia on Friday say the pair knew their journey was risky, but were determined to press on with their Christian mission.

In an email sent days before they went missing, Scott and Jean Adam described plans to stay out of touch to hide their location from pirates. – BBC News

Three more very important lessons here:

  • You can’t hide from pirates in the open ocean. It’s like trying to hide in the middle of an empty football field.
  • The pirates are most likely to be where you want them least.
  • Help is least likely to be where you want it most. A warship 30 miles away is an hour away from helping you. (outside of helo assistance)

Defense News lists some of the Marine Corps’ desired characterstics for the now cancelled EFV’s replacement – dubbed the “Amphibious Combat Vehicle”. They are interesting and speak somewhat to the Corps’ future…

* The ability to autonomously deliver a Marine infantry squad from an amphibious ship to shore a minimum distance of 12 nautical miles, at “a speed to enable the element of surprise in the buildup ashore.” The notice acknowledges that a high rate of speed “may prove to be unaffordable.”  I’m not sure what is meant by “autonomously” here except that it’s one of today’s buzzwords. Self propelled and self navigated? Likley. Unmanned, or artificial intelligence piloting (the most current use of “autonomous”) – unlikely. Exact speed in the water is not defined for the RFI. It will bear watching if the speed is nummerically defined in later documents – specifically designated speed unsupported by study, logic, and thought being the Achilles heel of modern acquisition – despite the comment linking “a high rate of speed” and “unaffordable”. The most interesting part of this snippet is the “minimum distance of 12 nautical miles”. More on that below.

* Protection characteristics must be applied to direct fire, indirect fire, and mines/IED threats. In order to address the spectrum of operating environments, this protection can be modular (i.e., applied incrementally as the situation dictates. The first part will be a given for the forseeable future…the key is the second part, the modular piece. The Marine Corps is admitting that they’ve gotten heavy, and too heavy and too big to fit all they want onto the defined square and cube of today’s (and tomorrow’s) amphibious ships. By being modular you can at least take the armor or defensive systems off, transport them or stow them seperately, and add them on when necessary – or able.

* …should enable the Marine Corps to rapidly integrate emerging technologies through the use of open architecture and reconfigure the interior to support alternative mission loads including logistics provisions (55gal drums etc.,) heavy weapons (mortar/rockets) and medical evacuations (litters). Also a current, and long desired, buzzword that will ideally pay dividends. For those not familiar with “open architecture” the easy shorthand is “no proprietary solutions”. The systems – navigation, mechanical, electrical, electronic, communications need to be able to plug and play with both military and civilian standards. But the level to which the reconfigurations are desired may become a cost driver if designers don’t build a big empty vehicle that can be internally configured to support these desires.

* Be powerful enough to engage and destroy similar vehicles, provide direct fire support to dismounted infantry and maneuver with M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks. This speaks to two things – terrestrial speed and firepower. Given the state of today’s art, neither of these should be daunting challenges.

OK..12 nautical miles from sea to shore. That’s the key differentiator here. EFV was somewhat hamstrung by two things – speed requirement and range. Navy and Marine Corps doctrine has for decades pressed to move amphibious operations over the horizon – to launch outside the range of shore based missile envelopes at 25 nautical miles. And that range drove the speed because studies show that Marines tend to be less combat effective after bouncing aroud in a closed box at sea for more than an hour. 12 nautical miles means that a 12 knot water speed vehicle can be part of the solution set – and that 20 knots will be acceptable. That alone may drive the costs down – if the Marine Corps can stay it’s own appetite for unconstrained acquisition.

Other than speed and range, the requirements for the ACV are nearly identical (including the Open Architecture requirement) to the original requirements for the Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAAV) which was later renamed the EFV. The only real question is why did it take so long to move away from the EFV? A system which has been in development for more than 16 years , and underperforming for 10. While our personnel systems may be slow or broken – they are nowhere near as bad off as some of our acqusition programs.

The full RFI cand be found at the FBO website. Responses are due by close of business 22 April 2011.

Last week, Al Jazeera English showed a 24 minutes documentary by filmmaker Vaughn Smith on American MEDEVAC crews in Afghanistan. The film is both an independent exploration of their mission and an emotional testament to their professionalism. It is a powerful film. It is more than just interesting to watch, it is important to watch.

Posted by Christopher Albon in Army | 11 Comments

The Unintended Empire

February 2011


“Those who question us now owe the country an explanation of how they would have acted differently given the stakes, the opportunities and the dangers.” – John Poindexter

There seems to be a rather startling lack of dispute of the idea that the United States lacks a strategy or a grand strategy. This lack of dispute makes the deficiency all the more alarming. Clearheaded, well-grounded strategic thinking is difficult – particularly in an era of newfound uncertainty. But it can be grounded in well-founded and well-understood geopolitical principals and history. The importance of the writings of CAPT Alfred Thayer Mahan and the value of history are two examples that need little further clarification at this blog. War Plan Orange is another.

The question of how we got to this point is an important one for understanding how to regain the long-range strategic perspective that has served this country so well in the past (while avoiding the far less productive Monday morning quarterback or Captain Hindsight discussions – hence the Poindexter quote). And even more pressing is where we should be now, but are not.

This is a central theme of Dr. George Friedman’s new book, The Next Decade. He argues that the United States oversees an “unintended empire,” that it is neither institutionally organized nor intellectually prepared to make the strategic choices and direct the various elements of national power in a coherent and integrated manner in pursuit of its long-term national interests:

Under both President Bush and President Obama, the United States has lost sight of the long-term strategy that served it well for most of the last century. Instead, recent presidents have gone off on ad hoc adventures. They have set unattainable goals because they have framed the issues incorrectly, as if they believed their own rhetoric. As a result, the United States has overextended its ability to project its power around the world, which has allowed even minor players to be the tail that wags the dog.

The overriding necessity for American policy in the decade to come is a return to the balanced, global strategy that the United States learned from the example of ancient Rome and from the Britain of a hundred years ago. These old-school imperialists didn’t rule by main force. Instead, they maintained their dominance by setting regional players against each other and keeping these players in opposition to others who might also instigate resistance. They maintained the balance of power, using these opposing forces to cancel each other out while securing the broader interests of the empire. They also kept their client states bound together by economic interest and diplomacy, which is not to say the routine courtesies between nations but the subtle manipulation that causes neighbors and fellow clients to distrust each other more than they distrust the imperial powers: direct intervention relying on the empire’s own troops was a distant, last resort.

Adhering to this strategy, the United States intervened in World War I only when the standoff among European powers was failing, and only when it appeared that the Germans, with Russia collapsing in the east, might actually overwhelm the English and French in the west. When the fighting stopped, the United States helped forge a peace treaty that prevented France from dominating postwar Europe.

During the early days of World War II, the United States stayed out of direct engagement as long as it could, supporting the British in their efforts to fend off the Germans in the west while encouraging the Soviets to bleed the Germans in the east. Afterward, the United States devised a balance-of-power strategy to prevent the Soviet Union from dominating Western Europe, the Middle East, and ultimately China. Throughout the long span from the first appearance of the “Iron Curtain” to the end of the Cold War, this U.S. strategy of distraction and manipulation was rational, coherent, and effectively devious.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, however, the United States shifted from a strategy focused on trying to contain major powers to an unfocused attempt to contain potential regional hegemons when their behavior offended American sensibilities. In the period from 1991 to 2001, the United States invaded or intervened in five countries— Kuwait, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, and Yugoslavia, which was an extraordinary tempo of military operations. At times, American strategy seemed to be driven by humanitarian concerns, although the goal was not always clear. In what sense, for example, was the 1994 invasion of Haiti in the national interest?

But the United States had an enormous reservoir of power in the 1990s, which gave it ample room for maneuver, as well as room for indulging its ideological whims. When you are overwhelmingly dominant, you don’t have to operate with a surgeon’s precision. Nor did the United States, when dealing with potential regional hegemons, have to win, in the sense of defeating an enemy army and occupying its homeland. From a military point of view, U.S. incursions during the 1990s were spoiling attacks, the immediate goal being to plunge an aspiring regional power into chaos, forcing it to deal with regional and internal threats at a time and place of American choosing rather than allowing it to develop and confront the United States on the smaller nation’s own schedule.

After September 11, 2001, a United States newly obsessed with terrorism became even more disoriented, losing sight of its long-term strategic principles altogether. As an alternative, it created a new but unattainable strategic goal, which was the elimination of the terrorist threat. The principal source of that threat, al Qaeda, had given itself an unlikely but not inconceivable objective, which was to re-create the Islamic caliphate, the theocracy that was established by Muhammad in the seventh century and that persisted in one form or another until the fall of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I. Al Qaeda’s strategy was to overthrow Muslim governments that it regarded as insufficiently Islamic, which it sought to do by fomenting popular uprisings in those countries. From al Qaeda’s point of view, the reason that the Islamic masses remained downtrodden was fear of their governments, which was in turn based on a sense that the United States, their governments’ patron, could not be challenged. To free the masses from their intimidation, al Qaeda felt that it had to demonstrate that the United States was not as powerful as it appeared—that it was in fact vulnerable to even a small group of Muslims, provided that those Muslims were prepared to die.

In response to al Qaeda’s assaults, the United States slammed into the Islamic world—particularly in Afghanistan and Iraq. The goal was to demonstrate U.S. capability and reach, but these efforts were once again spoiling attacks. Their purpose was not to defeat an army and occupy a territory but merely to disrupt al Qaeda and create chaos in the Muslim world. But creating chaos is a short-term tactic, not a long-term strategy. The United States demonstrated that it is possible to destroy terrorist organizations and mitigate terrorism, but it did not achieve the goal that it had articulated, which was to eliminate the threat altogether. Eliminating such a threat would require monitoring the private activities of more than a billion people spread across the globe. Even attempting such an effort would require overwhelming resources. And given that succeeding in such an effort is impossible, it is axiomatic that the United States would exhaust itself and run out of resources in the process, as has happened. Just because something like the elimination of terrorism is desirable doesn’t mean that it is practical, or that the price to be paid is rational.

Recovering from the depletions and distractions of this effort will consume the United States over the next ten years. The first step—returning to a policy of maintaining regional balances of power—must begin in the main area of current U.S. military engagement, a theater stretching from the Mediterranean to the Hindu Kush. For most of the past half century there have been three native balances of power here: the Arab-Israeli, the Indo-Pakistani, and the Iranian-Iraqi. Owing largely to recent U.S. policy, those balances are unstable or no longer exist. The Israelis are no longer constrained by their neighbors and are now trying to create a new reality on the ground. The Pakistanis have been badly weakened by the war in Afghanistan, and they are no longer an effective counterbalance to India. And, most important, the Iraqi state has collapsed, leaving the Iranians as the most powerful military force in the Persian Gulf area.

The entire introduction is available for free.

Posted by nhughes in Foreign Policy | 7 Comments
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